Running the Orange River

The Orange River

For those in search of adventure, running the Orange River in the Richtersveldt National Park on the border of South Africa and Namibia is just the ticket. In this isolated part of the Northern Cape, the Orange River’s long journey from the Drakensberg range to the Atlantic Ocean finally ends. Here, this majestic river is a long, green- fringed oasis that offers scenic stretches of serene water as it twists and turns through a striking desert landscape, with occasional fun rapids to spice up the journey.

This is a river run to be undertaken with a guide, either solo or with a group. The Orange River is usually tackled using two-person inflatable rafts, kayaks or canoes, sometimes with the support of a larger raft carrying supplies. A typical trip will be around 80-km (50-mi) long and different guides and organizers use various starting and take-out points. There is usually a base camp at the start where personal belongings may be left, with transport back at the end of the trip. Most expeditions assemble at Vioolsdrift on the Namibian border, just upriver from the Park – and some 350 km (217 mi) from the mouth of the Orange River – from where paddlers are driven to base camp.

The Richtersveldt National Park has recently been made a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s easy to understand why. The Richtersveldt is one of the most remote and unspoiled areas of South Africa, and one of the best ways to see this barren but extraordinary place is from the river that runs through it – some say the best way. It’s a true wilderness experience, in a rocky landscape that one writer has eloquently called ‘too beautiful to describe’. Somehow, that says it all – though that means you must see for yourself!



By raft, kayak or canoe


March to January


Four to six days for a typical journey.


Rapids like Dead Man’s Rapid and Sjambok Rapid – not too dangerous, but definitely enough to get the blood pounding.

Birds – the water and banks are alive with species Including cormorants, goliath herons, fish eagles and

Tall tales around the campfire under an amazing African sky at the end ofa rewarding day’s paddling.


If a custom journey doesn’t appeal, various canoe societies in the Northern Cape organize annual marathons on the Orange River


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